17 answers

My 10 Year Old Son Won't Do His Work

OK, I am at my whits end with my 10 year old son. He refuses to do his homework. It doesn't matter what it is, he won't do it until he gets in trouble for not doing it. He was so behind that on his progress report he had all F's. I have 4 kids and my husband is deployed so I feel like I'm drained all the time, especially with my 10 year old testing the limits. My older so (14) has ADD also, but has never given me the grief my 10 year old currently is. He had 3 weeks worth of spelling homework to make up and only did some of it. He has a huge project due in 2 days and I didn't know about it until a day ago. He also has a science project due in 3 days. I feel like I yell at him from the time he gets up in the morning (trying to make him hurry up and not be late for school, doesn't matter what time he gets up, he's always late) until he goes to bed at night and I'm to the point of tears. When he gets home in the afternoons it's a fight to get him to do his homework. I took him out of read 180 because the teacher was a joke, so now I have him read to me every day too (if he reads to me I read to him). But most of the time he won't read to me and ends up spending most of his time in his room because I don't know what else to do with him and frankly I get sick of yelling at him, or even looking at him. And it's not like I don't help him with his projects and homework. When he has writing homework I find myself doing most of it for him because I'm just so sick of yelling, and that goes for these projects that are due too. I end up doing most of the work. I just want to cry, I really do. This is so hard. My husband has already been to Korea, and Iraq (this is his 2nd deployment) so it's not like I haven't done this by myself before, but I really just want to shake him and shake him until he does SOMETHING, ANYTHING besides just sitting there doing NOTHING. I have told him that I don't care if he has to do 4th grade again, and I really don't. I shouldn't have to do his homework for him it's rediculous (sp?). He does the same thing with his math homework. I will go over the first 5 or 6 problems with him and he'll sit down to do the rest and say that he doesn't understand. He can't follow the steps, he can't multiply, he can't do it (insert whiny 10 year old voice). And I want to pinch his head off. He wants someone else to do everything for him, I'm willing to help, but I'm not in 4th grade anymore, it's not my homework and I shouldn't have to hold his hand all the way through it. He should, at 10, be able to work somewhat independently shouldn't he??? He should be able to write a paragraph without help, he should be able to do spelling homework without being yelled at. HELP!!!!! (He does have ADD...inattentive...big surprise...but he's on meds for it.)

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Holy cow! I just wanted to thank everyone SO SO much for all the input. It was so good to hear that I'm not alone in this. You are all awesome. Andrew ended up getting A's on both of his projects, and catching up on his missing homework. After I wrote this request I went into his room to talk to him and ask him what I/we needed to do to get it done. But I started to cry. I was so frustrated and so tired of fussing at him. (What I call yelling is what other's would call talking a little louder than normal. I'm a very quiet person normally=) The only time the kids have really seen me cry is at TV shows and movies, so I think that this freaked him out a little. Haha (I can laugh now!) After my "meltdown" he came out and got to work and I didn't have to fuss at him (very much) after that. I've also started reading "The Minds of Boys - Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life" by Michael Gurian and Kathy Stevens. It has really opened my eyes to the crisis that boys in school are facing today. They learn in a completely different way from girls (in general) and we need to change the way our sons are taught. I have an older brother and 2 sons and every word resonates loudly. Anyone who has boys or teaches boys has got to get this book. Thank everyone again so much for your support and advice. It takes a village, it really does, thanks for being in mine=)

Featured Answers

Have you talked to his Teacher about it or the school counselor? My DD is in 2nd grade and I have to stay on top of her to get her to do her homework. Her teacher has really helped with the issue. If my DD gives me too hard of a time and her homework is sloppy her teacher will make her do it again and this helps because my DD does not want to do it again. Is it possible that he is also acting out with the deployment?

You know I know exactly hwere you are coming from. I have a 10 yr old son that is doing the samne thing and I dont have a clue what to do or even where to start. I mean we are in the exact same situation when it comes to the boys. I have tried to take everything away from him but it still doesn't work. So let me know when you find something that works and I will do the same. Good Luck.

More Answers

Where are you located? Some schools have a homework club for them to stay after school and get help with tutors. It's free. Or, some of the after school clubs at the child and youth services offer some homework help but that costs. Check with the school because they usually have mentor programs and can find someone for your son to help him with his homework. That is also free. If you can address the homework issue then it will help him feel successful in something and maybe that will help him all around. You could check out your local cub scouts and see if you can get him into some of their summer activities (starts in June). Maybe some other boys and good role models would help him some. If you are in the KMC area, let me know and I can see about helping you find scouts if you are interested.

I am a teacher in DoDDS so I think the first step is to talk to his teacher about reducing the amount of his homework. Since he is diagnosed ADD, then it is reasonable to ask his teacher to make accommodations for him so that he can be successful. For example, he should do half as many math problems as his classmates. You want to focus on the quality of his work, not the quantity.
If possible, set up a consistent routine after school. He should come home, maybe have a snack, then do homework. If he is very restless after school then give him 20 minutes before he starts homework to do something active, i.e. ride bikes, play outside, etc. When the 20 minutes is up then he needs to do his homework. Instead of yelling and fighting with him, have him sit there until it is finished. You are willing to help him, but you won't do it for him, and you won't help him if he is not attempting to get it done. You may want to set up a reward system where he can earn rewards for completing his homework without complaining.
Since he is ADD it is very important that he goes to bed early enough to get a good nights sleep. You should also limit the amount of time he spends playing video games and watching TV. Those things can be used as rewards, rather than as things that he just automatically gets to do.
If you can afford it, I recommend hiring him a tutor. Many times students will work harder for someone else than they will for their parents. If you can't afford one, then ask at the local high school as there may be students there who need volunteer hours.

I feel your frustration and am sorry you are so overwelmed. Each time Daddy is gone for a while, you are different and each of your children is different, so it only makes sense that your experiences will also be different. My suggestion is to completely change the way homework is done. I suggest you get an adult homework tutor, away from the house so you are not part of any conflict the two experience or maybe without you there the conflict may naturally decrease (think possitive!), and have his daily homework completed that way. For whatever reason, he is not resonding to you right now and you are strung so thin that everything he is doing is getting on your nerves. Not a pleasant place to be for either of you. I suggest you place this "fight" in a professional tutor's hands and leave yourself to find some peace between the two of you. (I truely believe it takes more than one person to raise a child so reaching out for assistance is smart not weak or any other negative word some may think.)

I can so relate to you, I have a 9 year old basically doing the same thing. I will have to consider the tutor because I have just about run out of things to try. He doesn't do school work, I get notes from teachers saying he didn't complete this or that so it's sent home on top of his homework. I have taken privaliges away, grounded him from going outside which is the worst I could to him because he loves to outdoors all the time. I have knocked around the idea of homeschooling, but like you my son doesn't seem to be responding to me.
I am really glad to at least know I am not the only one!
I agree what the first responder said and I will give the advice a try as well.
Also your son maybe angery because dad is deplyed again. I can understand that, too, since Dh is in the Navy.

I feel your pain..but Sorry I have no advice as I have a 17 year old in the same place.. Check to see if your school offers gradespeed this way you can see how many missing papers he has on the computer. Although it doesn't help if they won't do the work or turn it in.


I shouldn't be writing to you actually because I have difficulties with my amost 8 year son, too when it comes to homework--he does it but it can take him up to 2 hours what should take him about 30 minutes and then in my perspective he should be turning in better work than he does (he goes to a German school).

Though my sister has told me of a co-workers of hers who has a daughter who was never on time to go to school. She did talk with a psychologist about the problem and was told that she should put the whole responsibility on the dauther. If she must come too late to school then so be it but she had to take the consequenses. Well, it worked for her that after a few times being to late she cut out the behaviour.

I also have talke with another friend of mine who had similar experience with her son and she only makes sure that he does some homework but she will not look at it nor get involved. It'ts between the kid and the teacher.

Having all that said I think you should go and talk to the teacher and tell them that you are well aware of his problems but that it has come to the point where you are beyond any progress and therefore you will totally step back, let him not do his work and come late to school but support the teacher with anything they impose on him for "punishment." That way the teacher knows you care and at the same time you will have a bit peace in the family again.

I will take the same aproach for the rest of the school year. My son has a homework book in which I make notes like he did not write down his homework etc. So the teacher knows that I'm on top of what is going on but at the same time am not involved. See what kind of communication the teacher will prefer if they go with that approach.

I guess schoolwork is like food, we can't force them to do it (eat it) it's their way of showing they have power, too. For me it's hard to see that my son is working beyond his potential but I guess we can't prevent our kids from making mistakes, they want to have exeriences on their own, just like our parents coudn't help us with our exeriences.

Good luck!

This is a tough one. Keep your chin up. Look at his homework and see if he is capable of doing it all. If he is having trouble doing it, talk to his teachers about adjusting it. However, that doesn't solve your challenge. He still needs to do some homework. Instead of getting after him come up with some positive incentive that he gets when it is done. Time on the playstation/Wii or something or just some quality time with you without having to read or do whatever it is that makes him whine. I know having 4 kids makes it a challenge because I have 3 and mine differ in age as well (11, 4 and 3). Sit them all at the table at the same time to do homework. If the one year old is interested, give her a crayon and a piece of paper. make it a family activity. Sharing and enjoying time together. Drives my 11yo crazy, but it works. It also helps set a system in place with my younger kids to ease them into homework when it is their turn. Next year, look at investing in a school planner and making him have it filled in and initialed by his teacher as to what he has to do. That may help keep on top of his projects and give you and him time to do them in small bites instead of a mad dash to get it completed. Good Luck!

Hi C.,

The first thing I will say is I am so sorry that you are having such a hard time with him, I know the feelings well. Only mine are with a grown man. I would take him back to the Doctor that prescribed the meds and talk to him about all the problems, he may be able to change the meds to something that will help better. Concerta is a time released med that lasts all day and into homework time and that could be just what he needs. Is his Teacher having the same trouble with him while he is at school? You can also call the school and talk with the Teacher and the Counslor there to see what they suggest. He may need to be tested to see if he is at all autistic as that could also be causing the problems that you are having with him at home. You are doing the right thing by venting here and asking for help! You will find hope and even some answers, if not from me then from the other Moms that will respond. Itstead of yelling you could try whispering or talking very low, this sometimes makes people listen where they tune you out if you are yelling. You might also find a punishment that he hates to make him conform to the you must do your homework rule. My Daughter loved listening to her radio and anytime that she would get in trouble, taking that from her hurt her more than any other punishment I could come up with and she started doing as she was asked. I hope that this helps you! God Bless you and yours!

You can very QUICKLY turn this around.
Look up Applied Behavior Analysis and use those positive re-enforcement methods with your son and other children.
I have a 10 year old with high functioning autism, ADD, anxiety, OCD....... a bit of everything in the spectrum.
We cleared out his room of ALL toys and put them in the closet in clear bins for easy access.
Then put him on a "token" reward system at home and at school. He has a list of his most desirable items (toys, games, foods) and they have to be earned by tokens.
He earns tokens by doing homework, going thru morning and evening routines (being on time for school, reading aloud to me). I give him tokens anytime and anywhere we are when I want to re-enforce positive behaviors. I ignore the negative, no yelling, no reacting, just walk away. Or start blocking/removing his positive re-enforcement items (games.... etc..) But go slow and give him a CHANCE to turn it around and make a good choice.
We also use this with my 5 year old daughter who was not listening to us at all.
We are a much calmer, happier family and actually enjoy each others company now rather than avoiding or being defensive with each other.
THE FOUNDATION THAT YOU BUILD ALL OF THIS ON STARTS WITH INSTRUCTIONAL CONTROL. that means you have to PAIR yourself with your childs favorite toys or activities until YOU become just as or more re-enforcing to the child as his favorite toys or activities.
AND guess what, during this time you and your child will start to have FUN with each other and learn to enjoy each others company.
You transfer this to anything and everything you expect your child to do for you (homework, chores, etc......) Before you know it your child will be asking YOU to read, play games, ect........... The good behaviors start to snowball and overcome the negative.
Good Luck!!

Hi there

I just want you to know that I went through the exact same thing with my eldest son when he was in 4th grade. I used to be in tears dealing with him as well. The yelling, the sheer frustration I remember it all. I used to feel also that I was the one who was doing most of the homework. How did I resolve it? I don't know if this would be your answer but it worked for us. I got his teacher and counselor to sit in with myself and my son. They helped us resolve the problem by recommending that firstly I not sit with him while he did his homework, I put a desk in his bedroom. He was only allowed to come out and ask me for help 3 times (for 3 problems, ie. math or grammer question). When he got home from school give him time to unwind have a snack. Then homework, and nothing else fun could happen until his homework was done. We made it a routine and just me separating myself from the situation helped with the frustration of feeling like it was all me doing the homework. His teacher and counselor telling him infront of me that homework was his responsibility and something he had to do or he could end up repeating a grade was also a dose of salt he needed to hear from someone else other than me. My son is 17 and will graduate next year and since that conference has done his homework with no prodding from either me or my husband. Incidentally at the time my husbad was constantly gone TDY too, due to the nature of his job in the AF at the time.

Good Luck

I feel for you. I think alot of the power struggle with the Moms is caused by the Dad being in Iraq again. Have you tried a Family Life Consultant? They are free and they really help alot. You can call your ACS to get a number for them.
Good Luck,

Maybe you could take yourself out of the whole homework issue. I think you should get a third party who is not emotionally vested in your son, like a tutor. An older boy that your son could relate to or even look up to would be the best choice. There are high school and even middle school students who would probably be willing to tutor your son, even if that tutoring simply consists of sitting with him making sure he does his homework. You might even be able to find someone like a boy scout who is trying to do a service project, and that would make it free for you. Kids so often tune out what parents are saying but will respond to someone else. I understand your frustration that leads to screaming at him, I end up screaming at my daughter too, she also won't listen to a thing I say. But in the end I know the screaming doesn't work at all and only causes her to tune out more. Since school is almost out maybe you could take a vacation with some family or even go visit family and they can lend a hand with your kids so you can take a breather. As much as we love our kids, we still need the occasional break. Good luck.

Have you talked to his Teacher about it or the school counselor? My DD is in 2nd grade and I have to stay on top of her to get her to do her homework. Her teacher has really helped with the issue. If my DD gives me too hard of a time and her homework is sloppy her teacher will make her do it again and this helps because my DD does not want to do it again. Is it possible that he is also acting out with the deployment?

First of all- calm down and take a few deep breaths. Letting yourself get frustrated won't solve the problem, believe me, I speak from experience. I am a homeschool mom and a teacher of 7 years, so I feel your pain. Your son may genuinely not understand his work because while the lesson was going on, he may have been daydreaming or doing something else. How is your communication with his teacher? It seems absurd that the work has piled up and he has F's and this is the first you have heard of it. Before my students get to a point of failure, I have had numerous contacts with the parents. Your son may also be reacting to his dad's deployment. Maybe he doesn't see school as a priority while his dad is off fighting a war. Deployments affect us all in very different ways, even when we have been through them before. Try hooking your son up with a peer tutor. This will take some of the pressure off you and he will be able to connect with someone closer to his age who can show him the importance of learning. On base you may even be able to find free tutors. Also let your son access online learning tools. I don't have a list of websites in front of me right now, but if you email me back with interest in some, I can gather up a list. I used to work for esylvan and they offer (as a paid service) tutoring in language arts and math. They are great! The only reason I quit was that my students were seven hours behind me which called for late night sessions that were tiring. We do have teachers who teach in the morning though which would suit your son just fine. Try to find out what he really likes about school and learning and emphasize that. Don't make him feel threatened because he will resent it even more. I hope that I have helped because I could really feel your frustration. Take it easy and look forward to summer. Do make sure that he gets in at least 3 hours of reading per week over the break, but make sure it's something he enjoys. I am more than willing to help you further if you need it.
Heidelberg, Germany

Hello, Breathe, and know you are not alone! I had the same problem with my 9 year old. Talk to the teacher and see if sHe can e-mail you his homework. have an agreement between all three of you son-tacher-you that if or until homeowrk is done no recess.
DO NOT MAKE THIS A POWER STRUGGLE. He probably feels powerless in his life and he wants to engage you. Is there a time or place it could just be you and him? Make it a loving time. Pray for him. And know you have strength.
These are the things that worked wonders for me. I had to let go of my anger for my child.
My wise NANA told me one time, "Remember you are raising your grandchildrens daddy".

You know I know exactly hwere you are coming from. I have a 10 yr old son that is doing the samne thing and I dont have a clue what to do or even where to start. I mean we are in the exact same situation when it comes to the boys. I have tried to take everything away from him but it still doesn't work. So let me know when you find something that works and I will do the same. Good Luck.

First of C....Breathe! Shaking or pinching your sons head off is not going to do anything but get you in trouble with your conscience and the authorities. I have worked with ADD/ADHD children and agree that it can be very frustrating.
Let me ask first if you let him have computer time? Get a hold of some great educational websites so that he can work on different subjects and give him about an hour on for example a subject in which he is weakest at. My 8 year old is constantly told that she needs to work on her reading. I can't get her to read unless she starts doing reading comprehension activities on these websites.
Second, your child may be having trouble in these subjects and truly does not understand. I have a fifth grader going to sixth next year and is fantastic in math, quite opposite of myself, she tutors me...I think my daughter can help....she tutors a couple of her classmates by yahoo messenger and they are doing much better in school. If you want to reply than we can get together by phone to start and than get our children talking by instant messenger. If not you may want to attempt finding a classmate whom he gets along with and is good in math to help him understand and possibly do the same thing my daughter is doing.
Last but not least, both of my girls are very whiny and it is only striking your nerves worse because your husband is gone and can't give a little break. I am on my 8th deployment and it doesn't get any easier.
Good luck to you!

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